Paul Kagame

Paul Kagame is the sixth and current President of the Republic of Rwanda.

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Paul Kagame ( /kəˈɡɑːmeɪ/ kə-GAH-may; born 23 October 1957) is the sixth and current President of the Republic of Rwanda. He rose to prominence as the leader of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), whose military victory over the incumbent government in July 1994 effectively ended the Rwandan genocide. Under his leadership, Rwanda has been called Africa’s “biggest success story”[2] and Kagame has become a public advocate of new models for foreign aid designed to help recipients become self-reliant.[3] However, President Kagame's rule has been criticized for his domestic policies, which have been described as authoritarian. In addition Kagame has been accused of war crimes during Rwanda's invasion of the DR Congo in 1996, and of having led a subsequent proxy war against the DR Congo by arming the CNDP until January 20, 2009.[4]

Kagame has been funding the CECAFA Club Cup since 2002, and because of that the cup has been known as the Kagame Interclub Cup since then.

Early life

Kagame was born in October 1957, the youngest of six children,[5] in Tambwe, Rwanda-Urundi, a village located in the modern Southern Province of Rwanda.[6] His father, Deogratias, was a Tutsi with family ties to King Mutara III, but who chose to pursue an independent business career rather than maintain close ties to the royal court.[5] Kagame's mother, Asteria Rutagambwa, was also a Tutsi from the family of the Queen.[5] At the time of Kagame's birth, Rwanda was a United Nations Trust Territory; long-time colonial power Belgium still ruled the territory, but with a mandate to oversee independence.[7][8] Tension between Tutsi and Hutu had been escalating through the 1950s, culminating in the 1959 Rwandan Revolution. Hutu activists began killing Tutsi, forcing more than 100,000 to seek refuge in neighbouring countries.[9][10] Kagame's family abandoned their home, living for two years in the far north east of Rwanda and eventually crossing the border into Uganda. They moved gradually north, and settled in the Nshungerezi refugee camp in the Toro sub-region in 1962.[5] It was around this time that, as young boys, Kagame first met with his future comrade, Fred Rwigyema.[11]

Kagame's early years in primary school were spent with other Rwandan refugees in a school near the refugee camp, where they learnt English and began to integrate into Ugandan culture.[12] At nine years old, he moved to the respected Rwengoro Primary School, around 16 kilometres (10 mi) away, graduating with the best grades in the district.[13] He subsequently attended Ntare Secondary School, one of the best schools in Uganda, and also the alma mater of future Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni.[13] The death of his father in the early 1970s, and the departure of Rwigyema to an unknown location, led to a decline in Kagame's academic performance and an increased tendency to fight those who belittled the Rwandan population.[14] He was eventually suspended from Ntare and completed his studies without distinction at Old Kampala Secondary School.[15]

After finishing his schooling, Kagame made two visits to Rwanda, in 1977 and 1978. He was initially hosted by family members of Rwandan classmates in Uganda, but upon arrival in Kigali he made contact with members of his own family.[16] He kept a low profile on these visits, believing that his status as a well connected Tutsi exile could lead to arrest; on his second visit he entered the country through Zaire rather than Uganda to avoid suspicion.[16] Kagame used his time in Rwanda to explore the country, familiarise himself with the political and social situation and to make numerous connections who would prove useful to him in his later activities.[16]

Military career, 1979–1994

Ugandan Bush War

Paul Kagame and U.S. President George W. Bush in the White House.

In 1978, Fred Rwigyema returned to western Uganda and met with Kagame.[17] During his absence, Rwigyema had joined the rebel army of Yoweri Museveni, which was based in Tanzania and aimed to overthrow the government of Idi Amin.[17] Rwigyema then returned to Tanzania and fought in the 1979 war in which Museveni's army, allied with the Tanzanian army and other Ugandan exiles defeated Amin.[18] Following Amin's defeat and inspired by Rwigyema, Kagame and other Rwandan refugees pledged allegiance to Museveni, who was a Cabinet member in the transition government.[19] Kagame travelled to Tanzania where the Tanzanian government, aiming to protect the new Ugandan regime, trained him in espionage and information collection.[20]

In late 1980, a general election was held in Uganda which was won by former incumbent Milton Obote. Museveni disputed the result, so he and his followers withdrew from the new Ugandan government. In 1981, Museveni formed the rebel National Resistance Army (NRA); Kagame and Rwigyema joined as founding soldiers, along with thirty eight Ugandans.[21][22] The army's aim was to overthrow the Obote's government, in what became known as the Ugandan Bush War.[22][23] Kagame and Rwigyema joined the NRA aiming to ease conditions for Rwandan refugees persecuted by Obote and also to gain military experience for a putative future invasion of Rwanda.[24] Kagame specialised in intelligence gathering and he rose to a position close to Museveni.[25] The NRA, based in the Luwero triangle, fought the Ugandan army for the next five years and continued the war despite Obote's deposition in a 1985 coup and subsequent peace talks.[26] In 1986 the NRA captured Kampala with a force of 14,000 soldiers including 500 Rwandans, and formed a new government.[27]

After Museveni's inauguration as President, he appointed Kagame and Rwigyema as senior officers in the new Ugandan army; Kagame was the head of military intelligence.[28][29] They spent the next three years working overtly for the Ugandan army, while also covertly building a network of Rwandan refugees within the army's ranks intended as the nucleus for any putative attack on Rwanda.[30]

Rwandan Civil War

In the late 1980s Rwanda's President Habyarimana and Ugandan army members criticised Museveni over his appointment of Rwandan refugees to senior positions.[31][32] Museveni therefore demoted Kagame and Rwigyema from their official positions in 1989.[31] Kagame and Rwigyema remained de facto in senior positions, but began to accelerate their plans to invade Rwanda.[33] They joined an organisation called the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a refugee association which had been operating since 1979, first as the Rwandan Refugee Welfare Foundation, then as the Rwandan African National Union (RANU), before becoming the RPF in 1987.[34] Rwigyema became the RPF leader shortly after joining and, while still working for the Ugandan army, began to plan the invasion.[35]

Kagame with US President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama in 2009.

In October 1990, Rwigyema led hundreds of RPF rebels Rwanda at the Kagitumba border post, advancing 60 km (37 mi) south to the town of Gabiro.[36] Paul Kagame was not present at the initial raids, as he was taking a course at the Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, United States. The RPF suffered a significant reversal on the third day when Rwigyema was killed. Rwigyema's death, and the deployment of French and Zairian armed forces, threw the RPF into confusion and by the end of October they had been pushed back into the far northeast corner of the country.[37][38]

Following Rwigyema's death, Kagame returned to Africa and took command of the RPF forces, which had been reduced to less than 2,000 troops.[39] Kagame and his soldiers moved west, through Uganda, to the Virunga mountains, a high altitude area in which the Rwandan army could not attack them.[40] From there, he rearmed and reorganised the army, and carried out fundraising and recruitment from the Tutsi diaspora.[41] Kagame restarted the war in January 1991, with a surprise attack on the northern town of Ruhengeri. The RPF captured the town, benefiting from the element of surprise, and held it for one day before retreating back to the forests.[42] Following this action the RPF began a classic hit and run style guerrilla war.

For the next year, the RPF waged classic hit and run style guerrilla war, capturing some border areas but not inflicting or suffering any major defeats.[43] In June 1992, following the formation of a multiparty coalition in Kigali, Kagame announced a ceasefire and began negotiations with the Rwandan government in Arusha, Tanzania.[44] Meanwhile, extremist groups formed and began intimidating Tutsi, and in January 1993 engaging in large scale violence and killing across north western Rwanda.[45] Kagame responded by launching a major attack, gaining a large swathe of land across the north of the country.[46] Negotiations continued in Arusha, however, and an agreement was signed in August 1993, which gave the RPF positions in a Broad-Based Transitional Government (BBTG) and in the national army.[47][48] The United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), a peacekeeping force, arrived in the country and the RPF were given a base in the Chamber of Deputies building in Kigali, for use during the setting up of the BBTG.[49]

Rwandan Genocide

On 6 April 1994, President Habyarimana's plane was shot down near Kigali Airport, killing Habyarimana and the President of Burundi, Cyprien Ntaryamira, as well as their entourage and three French crew members.[50][51] It is unknown who carried out the attack; many historians, such as Gerard Prunier,[52] as well as a 2012 report by French judges,[53] believe it was a coup d'etat by extreme Hutu members of Habyarimana's government and was planned as part of the Genocide; others, such as a 2006 report by French judge Jean-Louis Bruguière allege that Kagame and the RPF were responsible.[54] Following Habyarimana's death, a military committee led by Colonel Theoneste Bagosora took immediate control of the country.[55] Under the committee's direction, the Interahamwe and the presidential guard began to kill opposition politicians and prominent Tutsi;[56] within 24 hours all moderate leaders had been killed,[57] including prime minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana.[58] The killers then began targeting the entire Tutsi population, beginning the Rwandan Genocide.[59]

On 7 April Kagame warned the committee and UNAMIR that he would resume the civil war if the killing did not stop.[60] The troops stationed in the CND began fighting during the night, after being attacked,[61] and on 8 April Kagame began an attack from the north on three fronts aiming to link up quickly with the isolated troops in Kigali.[62] An interim government was set up but Kagame refused to talk to it, believing that it was just a cover for Bagosora's rule.[63] Over the next few days, the RPF advanced steadily south, capturing Gabiro and large areas of countryside to the north and east of Kigali.[64] They avoided attacking Kigali or Byumba at this stage but conducted maneouvres which aimed to encircle the cities and cut off supply routes.[65] The RPF also allowed Tutsi refugees from Uganda to settle in the areas controlled.[65]

Throughout April there were numerous attempts by UNAMIR to establish a ceasefire but Kagame insisted each time that the RPF would not stop fighting unless the killings stopped.[66] In late April the RPF secured the whole of the Tanzanian border area and began to move west from Kibungo, to the south of Kigali.[67] They encountered little resistance, except around Kigali and Ruhengeri.[63] By 16 May they had cut the road between Kigali and Gitarama, the temporary home of the interim government, and by 13 June had taken Gitarama itself, following an unsuccessful attempt by the RGF to reopen the road; the interim government was forced to relocate to Gisenyi in the far north west.[68] As well as fighting the war, Kagame was recruiting heavily to expand the army; the new recruits included Tutsi survivors of the Genocide and refugees from Burundi, but were less well trained and disciplined than the earlier recruits.[69]

Having completed the encirclement of Kigali, Kagame spent the month of June fighting for the city itself.[70] The government forces had superior manpower and weapons, but the RPF were still gradually gaining territory as well as conducting raids to rescue civilians from behind enemy lines.[70] According to Romeo Dallaire, the force commander of UNAMIR, this success was due to Kagame being a "master of psychological warfare";[70] he exploited the fact that the RGF were concentrating on the Genocide rather than the fight for Kigali, and capitalised on the government's loss of morale as it lost territory.[70] The RPF finally defeated the RGF in Kigali on 4 July,[71] and on 18 July took Gisenyi and the rest of the north west, forcing the interim government into Zaire and ending the Genocide.[72] At the end of July 1994, Kagame's forces held the whole of Rwanda except for a zone in the south west which had been occupied by a French led United nations force as part of Operation Turquoise.[73]

Marriage and children

Kagame married Jeannette Nyiramongi, a Tutsi exile living in Nairobi, Kenya in Uganda on June 10, 1989. [74] Kagame had requested his relatives to suggest a suitable marriage and they recommended Nyiramongi. Kagame travelled to Nairobi and introduced himself, persuading her to visit him in Uganda. Nyiramongi was familiar with the RPF, and its goal of returning refugees to Rwanda, so held Kagame in high regard.[74]

The couple have four children: Ivan, Ange, Ian and Brian.[75]

First and Second Congo Wars

Kagame was part of the cabinet of President Pasteur Bizimungu (who took the office in the aftermath of the genocide) and was made Vice President of Rwanda and Defense Minister. Bizimungu was also a member of the RPF, and as its military leader, Kagame was widely viewed as the power behind a figurehead, and eventually became President in March 2000.[citation needed]

According to the United Nations Mapping Report, Rwanda attacked Zaïre, masking its invasion with proxy militias. It did so to wipe out Hutu militants and cause a mass return of refugees, and committed acts allegedly tantamount to genocide from July 1996. Tutsi/Banyamulenge armed units, who had left Zaïre for military training with the Rwandan Patriotic Army, along with RPA soldiers, began their operations to infiltrate the Congolese province of South Kivu via Burundi and to destabilize North Kivu via Uganda. The first serious clashes between the FAZ and these infiltrés took place on 31 August 1996 near Uvira in the province of South Kivu. On 18 October, the conflict took on a new turn when an armed movement, the AFDL (Alliance des Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Congo), was officially formed in Kigali, asserting its intention to topple Mobutu Sese Seko. Under the cover the AFDL, whose own troops, weapons, and logistics were supplied by Rwanda, soldiers from the RPA, the UPDF (Uganda People’s Defense Force) and the FAB (Forces Armées Burundaises) entered Zaïre en masse and set about capturing the provinces of North and South Kivu and the Ituri District. During this lightning offensive, units of the AFDL, RPA and FAB attacked and destroyed all the Rwandan and Burundian Hutu refugee camps set up around the towns of Uvira, Bukavu, and Goma. Several hundreds of thousands of Rwandan refugees returned to Rwanda, but hundreds of thousands of others, like the ex-FAR/Interahamwe, fled towards the territories of Walikale (North Kivu) and Shabunda (South Kivu). For several months, they were pursued by AFDL/RPA soldiers, who are alleged to have gone about systematically destroying the makeshift refugee camps and persecuting anyone who came to their aid.”[76]

In 2001, another United Nations report, on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, specifically pointed to the responsibility and profiteering of Kagame and his associates in the illegal exploitation of natural resources that was facilitated by these exactions, and may have motivated them:

  • "On the Rwandan side, most companies with important activities related to the natural resources of the Democratic Republic of the Congo are owned either by the Government or by individuals very close to the inner circle of President Kagame. Rwanda Metals, for example, is a company involved in coltan dealing. It purchases coltan and exports it out of the continent. The Panel has strong indications that RPF controls Rwanda Metals. In mid-January 2001, some very reliable sources met with the senior management of Rwanda Metals in Kigali. During these discussions, the Director told them that Rwanda Metals was a private company with no relation to the army. He further explained that he was expecting key partners that very morning for discussions. As discussions continued, the so-called partners arrived as planned; however, they were in Rwandan army uniforms and were top officers. This incident confirms accounts from various sources indicating that Rwanda Metals is controlled by RPF. Meanwhile there are also indications that RPA is a shareholder of Grands Lacs Metals, a company also dealing in coltan."[77]
  • "[Kagame']s position in the State apparatus with regard to the exploitation of the natural resources of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the continuation of the war has evolved, yet his role has remained pivotal. This role can be situated on three levels: his relations with the Rwandan business community operating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, control over the army, and the structures involved in the illegal activities."[77]
  • As a result, the UN report concluded that: "Presidents Kagame and Museveni are on the verge of becoming the godfathers of the illegal exploitation of natural resources and the continuation of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They have indirectly given criminal cartels a unique opportunity to organize and operate in this fragile and sensitive region."[77]


Kagame (right) with left-to-right Joseph Kabila, Thabo Mbeki, and George W. Bush

Paul Kagame became President of Rwanda in March 2000,[78] after his predecessor, Bizimungu, resigned. Three and a half years later, on 25 August 2003, he won a landslide victory in the first national elections since his government took power in 1994 winning 95.5% of the votes.[78]

Kagame is highly critical of the United Nations and its role in the 1994 genocide. In March 2004, his public criticism of France for its role in the genocide and its lack of preventative actions caused a diplomatic row.[79] In November 2006, Rwanda severed all diplomatic ties with France and ordered all its diplomatic staff out of Rwanda within 24 hours following Judge Bruguière issuing warrants accusing nine high-ranking Rwandans of plotting the downing of President Juvénal Habyarimana's airplane in 1994 and also accusing Kagame of having personally ordered the assassination.[79]

As president, Kagame has also been critical of the West's lack of development aid in Africa. Kagame believes that Western countries keep African products out of the world marketplace. In contrast, he has praised China, saying in a 2009 interview that "the Chinese bring what Africa needs: investment and money for governments and companies."[80]

Human rights

In June 2006, the International Federation of Human Rights and Human Rights Watch described what they called "serious violations of international humanitarian law committed by the Rwanda Patriotic Army".[81]

Kagame at the Tribeca Film Festival premiere of Earth Made of Glass, a documentary he appeared in about the Rwandan genocide.

According to The Economist, Kagame "allows less political space and press freedom at home than Robert Mugabe does in Zimbabwe", and "[a]nyone who poses the slightest political threat to the regime is dealt with ruthlessly".[82] He has been accused of using strict laws against stirring up ethnic hatred, or "divisionism," to stifle dissent.[83]

In spite of intimidation against opposition journalists, publications - both domestic and foreign - fiercely critical of Kagame are often sold freely in Kigali. Adam Hochschild, in a New York Times book review of Jason Stearns' book "Dancing in the Glory of Monsters," wrote, "[h]ow this media-savvy autocrat has managed to convince so many American journalists, diplomats, and political leaders that he is a great statesman is worth a book in itself."[84]

The United States government in 2006 described the human rights record of the Kagame government as "mediocre", citing the "disappearances" of political dissidents, as well as arbitrary arrests and acts of violence, torture and murders committed by police. US authorities listed human rights problems including the existence of political prisoners and limited freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion.[85]

Reporters Without Borders listed Rwanda in 147th place out of 169 for freedom of the press in 2007,[86] and reported that "Rwandan journalists suffer permanent hostility from their government and surveillance by the security services". It cited cases of journalists being threatened, harassed and arrested for criticising the government. According to Reporters Without Borders, "President Paul Kagame and his government have never accepted that the press should be guaranteed genuine freedom."[87] In 2010, the BBC reported that a Rwandan website, Umuvugizi (Kinyarwanda for 'the Spokesperson'), was shut down by the government.[88] In 2011, Kagame took issue with a British journalist on Twitter after the journalist's tweets asserted that Kagame is "despotic."[89]

Honors and accolades

  • Kagame was in March 2003 awarded the 2003 Global Leadership Award by the Young Presidents' Organization (YPO). He received the award in recognition of his "commitment and tireless work to address crises, to foster understanding, unity, and peace to benefit all people." YPO regard his role in reconciling the Tutsi and the Hutu differences in Rwanda and in developing a peaceful solution to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo as a benchmark of great leadership, uncommon inspiration and remarkable achievement.
  • In April 2005, Kagame was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor Laws by the University of the Pacific in the United States.
  • In September 2005, Kagame was awarded the Andrew Young Medal for Capitalism and Social Progress by Georgia State University in the United States.
  • In September 2005, Kagame was awarded the African National Achievement Award by the Africa America Institute in the USA.
  • In April 2006, Kagame was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Oklahoma Christian University in the USA.
  • In May 2006, Kagame was given the 2006 ICT Africa Award, an award that is designed to recognize and reward organizations and individuals that have demonstrated excellence in promoting the use of ICTs for the overall development of the African continent.
  • In September 2006, Rwanda was listed as a Top-10 reformer on the Ease of doing business index by the World Bank.
  • July 2007, Kagame won the Best Head Of State in Africa in Support of ICT Award. Kagame won the same award in May 2006, in an event that took place in Kigal.
  • In August 2007, Kagame was given the Hands Off Cain Award for his role in ending the death penalty in his country.
  • In November 2007, Kagame was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor in Law by the University of Glasgow in Scotland.
  • In December 2007, Kagame was given the African Gender Award in Dakar, Senegal for his role in promoting gender equality in Rwanda.
  • March 2009, Kagame was awarded with “The Distinction of the Grand Cordon in the Most Venerable Order of the Knighthood of Pioneers” by Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.The highest honour in Liberian was given to Kagame in recognition of his exemplary leadership and exceptional contribution to the promotion of women’s rights.
  • In June 2009, Kagame was awarded the Children's Champion Award by the US Fund for UNICEF for Promoting Children's Rights
  • In September 2009, Kagame was awarded the International Peace Medal from Saddleback Church for his support and role in the P.E.A.C.E. plan.
  • In September 2009, Kagame honoured with the Clinton Global Citizen Award in recognition of his leadership in public service that has improved the lives of people of Rwanda.
  • November 2009, Kagame was presented with the ‘Most Innovative People Award for Economic Innovation’ at the Lebanon2020 Summit.
  • May 2010, Kagame was awarded 'Lifetime Leadership Award for Development and Equality' by Rwandan Women in recognition of his efforts in developing the nation and promoting equality amongst Rwandans.
  • May 2010, Kagame was awarded the 2010 Rwanda Convention Association (RCA) Award of Excellence in recognition of his role in steering Rwanda towards a knowledge-based economy and promotion of the private sector.
  • On 5 June 2010, Kagame was awarded the prestigious 'Energy Globe Award' on the occasion of World Environment Day celebrated in Kinigi, Rwanda.
  • On 5 July 2010, Rwanda International Network Association (RINA) awarded Kagame for his continuous efforts in the promotion of Education.
  • On 27 September 2010, British Magazine New Statesman included Paul Kagame in the list of "The World's 50 Most Influential Figures 2010" on 49th place.[90]
  • On 19 November 2010, Kagame was presented the “Grand Croix – Ordre de merit du Benin” the country’s highest national award.

The decoration is awarded exclusively to personalities of the rank of Head of State in recognition of outstanding achievement or to express esteem.

  • 1 June 2011: President Kagame was awarded the Chello Foundation Humanitarian Award 2011 for his “outstanding leadership of the Republic of Rwanda since 1994”
  • 1 September 2011: THE International Olympic Committee (IOC) awarded President Paul Kagame with the 2010 IOC award for 'Inspiring Young People' around the world
  • On 7 November 2011, AERG (Association des Etudiants Rescapes du Genocide) awarded Kagame "... in recognition of his efforts and courage to stop the Genocide as he led the Rwanda Patriotic Army,", at the cerebration of AERG 15th Anniversary


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